The theatrical portion of the GFC salons, “Cry You One,” is a joint production of New Orleans-based performing arts companies ArtSpot Productions and Mondo Bizarro. The work was originally performed in fall 2013 as a procession piece that took audience members on a physical journey through St. Bernard Parish, La. The plays’ objective is “to tell the story of the people most directly impacted by coastal land loss,” said Nick Slie, co-founder and co-artistic director of Mondo Bizarro.
In addition to performing at the coalition’s salons, members of the “Cry You One” team also serve as facilitators, leading discussions related to culture, the coast and policy—all things that are predominantly featured in their productions.
“We’ve always been into the cultural traditions of our home, what it means to live in our home,” Slie said, a native of New Orleans with familial ties to other areas of Southeast Louisiana. “We continue to be curious about this question of land and culture in Louisiana, especially at a time when so many public debates are ramping up around river diversion and land loss.”
Now operating for 11 years, Slie said the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina factored heavily into Mondo Bizarro examining the relationship between the natural environment and culture.
“We were so aware of our home being threatened, but we looked up and realized that the effects of the storm, while they were caused by a levee failure, were really caused by the fact that storms are getting worse because there isn’t any land to protect us anymore,” Slie said. “That led us directly into this investigation of cultural land loss issues. We started to really become aware that we might not have a home in 50 years. So I would say the last nine to 10 years, it’s been a real focus of all of our work, mainly out of necessity—you can’t really ignore it anymore.”
Originally a two-and-half-mile procession piece through wetlands east of New Orleans, Slie and company have been busy adapting the play for an upcoming six-location tour in addition to performances at the salons.
The play originally featured a cast and crew of 10 to 12. The audience was met by a group portraying scientists who took the visitors on an ecological tour while explaining their research, “which happens to be a part of the [Louisiana] Coastal Restoration Master Plan,” Slie explained. Then the audience learns that the plan and funding isn’t going to save the land, and they will have to relocate away from the coast.
“The focus of the show actually changes to say instead of looking at what the science is saying, what if we looked at this picture, what the people, the land, the animals—what the natural world is saying that it wants,” Slie stated.
As for the culture represented in the play, music is featured prominently, as it is in all Mondo Bizarro works. “We are drawing upon some of the musical traditions in Southeast Louisiana like Cajun and Creole music, and are all original compositions,” he stated. “It’s the whole thing of marching in Louisiana with instruments, and so music played a huge part in how we moved people and how we sort of paraded together,” he said.
After the original “Cry You On” performances, the production held community dinners and invited organizations and audience members to discuss the show. There, Slie met Jayeesha Dutta. “That conversation led to excitement on both ends,” Slie said, and the two began working to create the program for the salons.
“For the most part, we perform it as we always like to, using the backdrop of nature as a sort of character in and of itself. For the salons, obviously, we’re doing a little bit of an adaptation, performing it inside,” Slie said. The segments performed at the salon represent one hour of the originally four-hour long St. Bernard Parish production.
In addition to musical performances by the “Cry You One” cast throughout the day—the four cast members performing at the salons even provide music to welcome attendees back from the lunch break—the salon performance includes a portion of the play during which characters argue about how funds are allotted, a discussion that is imminent for residents of the Gulf Coast.
”There’s an unprecedented amount of resources coming to the Gulf Coast,” Slie said. “We want people to start thinking about where those resources would best be allocated in the community that we’re in. That’s why we choose the material we chose.”
For more information or to read stories from the production, visit cryyouone.com.